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Urban mobility in the post-diesel era

Mobility has undergone a revolution in the last decade and has come to touch the heart of the automotive industry. The century-old supremacy of fossil-fueled engines is reeling, and the widespread rise of new forms of mobility, particularly powered by electricity, is seeing the light.

Diesel models have been the first to feel the effects of this change. Manufacturers have exhausted almost all margins for improvement in terms of technology. The final blow for these engines has come with the diesel-ban policies in many countries, which seek to do away with them because of the harmful effects of their emissions, not only for the environment, but also for our health.

And this trend is becoming global. Countries like Japan removed them from their roads some time ago, the European Union has set the goal of extinguishing the flame that keeps those drive systems alive as soon as possible. A mission that will not be easy after decades of direct or indirect promotion of diesel engines.

European diesel in figures

Sales of diesel models have been declining throughout Europe for five consecutive years. While in 2013 53% of vehicle registrations were for diesel vehicles, in 2017 this figure fell to 44% (EU-28 average; source: Statista 2019). Today’s market share is still high, but everything indicates that it will continue to decline until it becomes a niche market. The case of Norway is a particular one, the sale of electric vehicles is at around 80%, that of combustion engines only 20%.

To replicate this trend in cities around the world, a clever combination of prioritizing walking and cycling, exhaust-free individual mobility options and CO2 neutral means of public transportation are needed.

Prioritizing the mobility of cyclists

Encouraging citizens to move around the city by bicycle is a good strategy to reduce the high volume of traffic and pollution suffered by cities. Vitoria-Gateiz leads the ranking as the most sustainable city in terms of mobility. Its urban plan highlights it as the Spanish city that most heavily promotes the use of bicycles among its inhabitants.
For this reason, traffic lights should give priority to cyclists. The Sitraffic SiBike application improves the circulation of bicycles in cities. How does it work?

  • Once the cyclist downloads the APP onto his mobile, the SiBike system coordinates with the device’s GPS to determine location, speed and direction of travel.
  • When the cyclist passes by one of the defined activation points, the application informs the traffic control center.
  • The APP sends a command to the corresponding traffic light controller. Thus, when a cyclist approaches an intersection, the signal will automatically change to green or extend the green phase to let him or her go through.

The biggest advantage of incorporating the SiBike system into the city infrastructure is the reduction of traffic jams and the risk of accidents, making cycling a more attractive and less dangerous mode of transportation, at low cost. Germany was the first country to approve this type of system.

The electric car

The so-called e-Car represents an upward trend in today’s automotive market. The challenges it poses on electricity production, distribution, and in particular charging infrastructure availability, requires a holistic approach to powering eMobility.
Among the main advantages of e-Cars or electric cars stand out:

  • Reduction of CO2 emissions and pollutant particles into the atmosphere
  • Fuel economy (relates distance traveled by a vehicle and the amount of fuel consumed)
  • Savings in maintenance costs (no oils or lubricants, low brake wear, no mechanical transmissions)

Everything seems to indicate that electric vehicles are going to consolidate in the coming years. One of the objectives for 2030 is for electric cars to make up half of the vehicles on the roads.

The eBus: a sustainable mobility scheme

The environmental impact of tourism led the inhabitants of the Swiss city of St. Moritz, famous for its white landscapes, to participate in @Energiestadt, a scheme with a long-term goal of making all tourism in the city 100% sustainable. St. Moritz opted for a hybrid electric bus system, which has already worked successfully in major urban centers such as Hamburg and Vienna, where a dozen e-buses run on regular routes every day.

Thanks to advanced eBus charging technology it is possible to

  • Reduce CO2 emissions by using renewable energies
  • Decrease battery recharging times
  • Reduce traffic noise

But how do you make sure the electric bus doesn’t run out of power? By means of a recharging system, which can be installed at any stop, the bus is “plugged” into the mains thanks to a pantograph that supplies a charge of up to 450 kW. It is a simple process that works through a Wi-Fi connection and whose duration corresponds to the average time of a regular stop. This is a scheme that involves a major advance towards energy efficiency in public transport, and a great pilot project to learn from for other cities.

Why is it so important that we continue to eliminate fossil fuels from urban mobility?

As cities fill up with people, air quality drops. Air pollution has reached such high levels that scientists have found it to be directly related to the life expectancy of city dwellers. Worldwide, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people each year. In short: this is a serious health problem and contributes to and is exacerbated by climate change. To solve the problem, cities around the world are adopting different strategies that include restrictive policies, awareness-raising and air quality monitoring.

Fighting air pollution in cities

The Internet of Things (IoT) can help us beat air pollution. How? A real-time pollution monitoring system, including sensors, IoT communication protocols, and acquisition and transmission of data could be one weapon in this fight.

Siemens’ City Air Management (CyAM) tool is a cloud-based software suite, with a dashboard that displays real-time information on the air quality detected by sensors across a city and predicts values for the upcoming three to five days. These air-quality forecasts are prepared with the aid of algorithms that tap into an artificial neural network and draw on historical and current data on air quality as well as weather and traffic patterns.

In Nuremberg, the air quality forecast is currently being integrated into the municipal website. The city has also launched an RSS feed to inform in highly frequented areas such as retirement homes and public swimming pools, and uses CyAM to forecast ozone concentrations to notify risk groups of dangerous pollution levels.

BY Jan Schoenig

Jan is Director for Digital Cities & Infrastructure in Siemens IoT Solutions, with years of experience in smart city strategy and business development, partner relations and program management.



cyclists / e-car / eBus / urban mobility

We’d love to hear from you

Siemens are at the forefront of everything Smart Cities. To learn more or make a suggestion please get in touch.


Explore the cities

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